Elvie Shane’s ‘Forgotten Man’ Makes Its Case as 2023’s ‘Workin’ Man Blues’
Songs about the working class are woven throughout the fabric of country music. Unfortunately, some of the more recent ones do nothing more than pander to an already marginalized demographic. Thank goodness for Elvie Shane, then. The Kentucky songwriter’s new single “Forgotten Man” cuts through the buzzword bullshit of freedom, cold ones, and American dreams to get right to the heart of what it means to be blue-collar in 2023.
“Gas is getting too damn high and land is too/Can’t get your hands on an acre that ain’t handed down to you,” he sings in one particularly stinging couplet, expertly summing up both the American housing crisis and the chasm between the haves and the have-nots.
Shane wrote “Forgotten Man” with frequent collaborators Dan Couch, Luke Preston, and his producer, Oscar Charles, and it arrives with all the impact of the hammers swung by a segment of his audience. That’s not hyperbole: Few country singles released this year have such dramatic drums so high up in the mix. Listen to the “In the Air Tonight” fills that follow the intro verse and just try not to air-drum after Shane shouts, “What more can you want than a week’s paid vacation/and a pick-up loan?” To him, success is all about the little things.
Over three-and-a-half-minutes of slashing guitars and Shane’s defiant vocal delivery, he laments bailed-out banks, gentrification-fueled rents, and the ever-shrinking opportunity to get ahead. But he’s not pissing and moaning. Like the “forgotten man” (and woman) the song is dedicated to, Shane is still getting up early and going to work: “We can’t lay down,” he cautions, “so we lace up our boots.”
“Forgotten Man” comes on the heels of his collab with the Cadillac Three, “Hillbilly,” and is the first taste of Shane’s next album, the follow-up to his superb 2021 debut Backslider. As a country song, it stands as the 21st-century version of “Workin’ Man Blues,” but more pissed-off and defiant. Merle Haggard himself would be proud.